As the Hot Stove season heats up, rumors of trades and signings are beginning to fly fast and furious, and one recent anonymously-sourced tip feels like it could have stronger legs than others: the Mets acquiring Javier Vazquez from the White Sox.
Again it's all speculation at this point, to be taken with a shaker of salt, but a White Sox-Mets pairing on Vazquez makes sense on a number of levels. Let us count the ways:
1. Minaya is familiar with Vazquez from his Montreal days. Particularly with pitchers, that bit of first-hand experience is critical for closing the deal with a certain comfort level.
2. Vazquez has worn out his welcome in Chicago. Coming off a stellar 2007 campaign, Vazquez was probably close to untouchable. But finishing 12-16 in 2008 (his second losing season out of three in Chicago), and pitching particularly poorly down the stretch, means Vazquez is not the most popular man in Chicago these days. Much like Aaron Heilman or Luis Castillo, some players need a change of scenery once they accumulate too much baggage.
3. The White Sox need an infielder, losing Orlando Cabrera to free agency leaves them with a hole up the middle.
3. Everyone knows the Mets need to overhaul their bullpen, but they also have two rotation spots to fill; they desperately need a dependable starter that isn't signed off the scrap heap, nor a budget breaker. With the free agent starting pitching market offering the usual slim pickings, big names like CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe are going to command a premium the Mets are looking to avoid. Vazquez grades out pretty much at the value you would hope/expect to pay for Oliver Perez, and he's a little less enigmatic on the mound. In the heat of open market bidding the price for Ollie could go well beyond the $23M remaining on Vazquez's contract.
A trade with the White Sox is a cost-effective solution, and also represents one of the few scenarios where the Mets "rotten apple" contracts (i.e. Castillo) might be something the other team needs. Sure, the Mets undoubtedly need to help bridge the talent-gap between Castillo and Vazquez, but there's a lot of common ground to build on here.
If Minaya can pull this off early in the offseason, it should make it a lot easier to gameplan for the bullpen.